Should the Government subsidise the internet?

I am from the school that does not believe that the State should use taxpayer’s money to subsidise people’s lifestyle choices (with qualifications), so would normally answer “No”.  Furthermore, I have no objection to public bodies e.g. DVLA or HMRC providing services using the Internet if done for the convenience of users who have spent their own money to be able to do so, and particularly if it makes savings for those bodies in doing so when servicing that particular cohort.

But where I draw the line is the use by such bodies of the Internet purely for cost cutting purposes; what is known in the trade as “externalising” their costs. The use of the Internet for access to public services then ceases to be a lifestyle choice but an imposition. There is a maxim “He who wills the ends must will the means”. On that basis, a case can be made for the State to make access to the Internet available to those who otherwise ‘choose’ not to use the technology. So “Yes”.

As computer-literate citizens become older, any such subsidy will “wither on the vine” so the suggestion is not long-term. It could also be argued that the facilities provided by such a subsidy would have to be some cut-down version to avoid what is called Moral Hazard of everyone opting for the subsidy. Why go to all the expense for the latest model when it can be got free? This provision would be the TV equivalent of providing certain qualifying folk with a free B&W portable TV.

An alternative would be to oblige public bodies to continue to provide services without the use of the Internet. But in my view the Post Office network (expanded back to its former glory) should provide access and in-store help, free at the point of use. This would provide a better overall package.

John Churchill, Stroud

I want to move

I live alone in a three bedroomed house with a large flat garden in East Bristol. This is my family home, which is well maintained, warm and situated within easy reach of my children. I am, however, disabled and finding it increasingly difficult to look after my home and its garden. I’m reluctant to ask my children for assistance as they have such busy lives and work hard themselves, I have looked around for more suitable accommodation in this area.

The problems I have come up against are that there is a distinct shortage of places suitable for someone in my position, i.e. small bungalow or ground floor apartment. Those that there are seem to be very expensive and when I ask for a valuation on my nice home, the difference between what I can get and afford and have is always disappointing.bungalow, Free for commercial use  No attribution required . credit Pixabay

We are told we are an ageing population and that housing is at a premium but I am alone, living in a large cosy family home with a large child friendly garden that I cannot relinquish due to the availability of a place that suits my needs at a price I can afford. It’s a problem I have wrestled with for three years now and there seems to be no answer to it.

I’m sure there are many others in my position who would move given the option of suitably affordable places, which would make more family homes available for young people with families.

Richard Jones by email

Me too

I am 60 years old, and live in the house I inherited from my father after he died in 2013. (I was his sole carer for the last 5 years of his life). This is my only property.

Unfortunately, my father did not maintain the house, and it will soon need a number of large jobs carried out. There is no mortgage on the house, but I would be unable to afford to have this work done. So I have collateral, but little capital. I will need to sell the house and move.  I am investigating alternative types of housing – (not all over 60s are looking to find sheltered housing, or retirement complexes.)

My ideal would be to have an eco-home flat-pack or self-build, or a houseboat.

Does anyone have any information on this, and I would like to meet others who are also looking at these types of alternatives?

Jane Norman by email

Happy with benefits

With reference to the article “Universal Pensioners Benefits” in the November issue of Mature Times. I would like to take issue with the authors of the last paragraph.

As an OAP (94) I am quite happy to have all the benefits and not have the hassle of paying for them – being enabled to do so with an increased pension.

These benefits are automatically credited to me, so my life runs smoothly – no forms to fill in, no letters to post, no claims to be made.

My pension, though I would cheerfully accept an increase is, at the moment, perfectly adequate.

R Boyd, London

Childless choice

I hope you didn’t make Bridget Frew’s patronising missive your Letter of the Month in your November / December issue because you agree with her assumption that people can only live through other people’s children, if they haven’t got their own.

Millions – yes, Bridget, millions – of people choose not to have children, so they aren’t going to seek out surrogates. The millions more people who don’t have children from other circumstances still don’t all need to justify their existence through other people’s children.

I’ve made a significant contribution to the next generation through the massive taxes I’ve paid. The best I can do for “young single mums” is leave them to people who do have relevant experience to help them.

I find lots of things “more satisfying” than Mrs Frew’s remedy and can find greater rewards than she can imagine without being a lollipop lady.

N Green, York

Senior Railcardsrailway line, Free for commercial use  No attribution required. Credit Pixabay

I feel I must respond to the piece on Universal Pensioner Benefits because I think there has been a misunderstanding regarding senior railcards.  I have a senior railcard which costs, as far as I can remember, £30 a year to enable me as a traveller to have a 30% reduction on rail fares.  They certainly are not a free benefit.

I would be absolutely bereft if my London Freedom Pass was cancelled as it is an absolute boon for getting around.  I am extremely grateful to have my medications for osteoarthritis free particularly since each item would cost over £8.00.  I have never used a concession for pensioners to theatres, cinemas, restaurants and hairdressers as I feel these are not easily found.  The Winter Fuel Allowance is essential; the Christmas Bonus a joke at £10, never having been uprated since its institution many years ago now, and to receive the TV licence free is something to be very grateful for.

Patricia Christopher (Mrs.), London

Grumpy old man

Is it the onset of old age that makes for irritability? How many little things grate on me now that I would have shrugged off years ago?

It’s been a long time since I worked on the “London Gazette” and Hansard. But it annoys me when I see ‘z’ where to my way of spelling it should be an ‘s’. The increase in “isations” is another bug-bear. A tremendous amount of these irritations come from our sticky cousins, the American honeys, but not exclusively. The use of female names such as “Honey”, “Baby” and “Princess” are useful to those of us with short memories and can’t remember who we had last night’s meal with.

Names of Pubs. “The Prince of Wales” became “Shades” and the “Uplands Hotel” became “Streets”, fortunately they have a tendency to revert to their former names.

I recently sought a great grandparent’s house in Portsmouth in Saxe-Weimer Road. The name changed in 1914 together with Saxe-Couburg and Battenburg to more British sounding names like Mountbatten where I served in Plymouth in that same year.

Other little annoyances. Schedule, pronounced “schedule” becomes Americanised “Skedule”, and chiropody becomes “Shiropody.

Men now wear hats in homes and buildings. Do they remove their school cap – sorry – their baseball caps when talking to a lady? Would the lady appreciate that courtesy anyway? Where are the women of my youth? Don’t answer that! Women, who dressed appropriately, wore a modicum of make-up and never even thought of drinking a pint of lager. Ahhh – there’s another word that gets up my snout “lager”. The boys wearing their baseball caps back to front love the rubbish, but you need a bit of body in a beer, and that ain’t lager.

T Prior by email

Universal pensioner benefits

‘Pensioner benefits’ have grown like topsy and need revision, but in a way so that no-one loses and without any kind of means testing.  Claiming a State Pension, reaching State Pension age and actually stopping work are not necessarily done on the same day, but hand-outs like the Christmas bonus appear untaxed irrespective of employment status.

  1. The State Pension should comprise two parts, fixed and variable. The current benefits should all be raised by 20%, become taxable, and never be uprated as would the traditional part.
  2. Maybe the BBC should be financed through the Exchequer, maybe it should take advertising, or maybe it might try to do less.
  3. Bus passes involve a larger sum but without them many services would not run at all.
  4. Far more should be made of the increases earned by deferring the State pension, while there should be better clarity regarding who is excused contributions and who is credited with them.
  5. Tweaking the sums involved has become an annual joke, so what about linking it to MPs’ pay?

Hazel Prowse by email

Savings for the NHS

NHS funds are wasted in so many ways. I am based in London and have come across some which should be curtailed, e.g.:

  1. A GP surgery which has three Practice Nurses who no longer take blood pressure and patients have to take their own on a machine and report the result to a receptionist to add it to the patients’ note.
  2. The nurses no longer take blood tests as a phlebotomist now does so.
  3. GPs no longer request hospital transport when they refer a patient for an appointment. The patient has to book it with the firm that has taken over from the Hospital Transport Office, often when they are fit enough to use their bus pass.
  4. An optician or dentist’s referral to the hospital results in the patient receiving a password and appointment request form from an outside concern who thank the patient for “choosing to book through time”.

Of course, patients could help the situation if those from a close-knit family who only consult grandma, would ask advice from a Health Visitor or the local pharmacist. I have come across anaemic young women, due to their diet of rice and lentils, and elderly women who never take the gentle exercise of walking.

Hospital waiting rooms often run out of chairs because elderly widows arrive with a daughter as a chaperone, and a son who has parked the car or waits near the hospital entrance.

Julia, Totteridge